Why Words Matter

Posted by Linda Matias on June 16, 2011
Why Words Matter

Be Concise
Words matter--not only the words you choose but also how you put them together. Since competency-based questions require detailed responses, wordiness--or convoluted and excessive language--can be a common result. You must find a balance between providing the detailed information required and speaking directly and simply become aware of common wordy expressions and avoid them. The figure below provides examples of wordy phrases and their concise equivalents.

on a daily basis       daily
on account of the fact that because
in spite of despite
a lot of  many
due to the fact that because
later on later
at that point in time then
through the use of  through
in spite of the fact that although
last but not least finally
make contact with contact
valuable asset   asset
in view of the fact that  because
later on       later
make a decision decide
regardless of the fact although
throughout the course of  throughout the
prior to   before
with the exception of except for

Common Words and Phrases to Avoid
The words and phrases you select to communicate your experiences will impact the interviewer's perception of your qualifications. Certain common words may seem harmless to you, but they can be ammunition that shoots down the listener's perception of you. When the interviewer is offended by what you say or has a negative reaction to your use of slang, there's a breakdown in communication. To avoid this problem, familiarize yourself with the following conversational pitfalls that leave an unintentional negative impression.

1. Do not refer to women as girls.
Though you may not mean harm, the interviewer may view you as sexist or as someone who may have problems working with women. Instead, refer to co-workers and others as team members or use particular job titles. For example, refer to "the receptionist," not as "the girl at the front desk." In a similar way, older candidates should avoid referring to younger co-workers as "kids." This implies a lack of respect for younger team members.

2. Avoid slang. Very casual talk does not have a place in an interview, and that includes bar talk, sports jargon, and all off-color references. Though many people use "you guys" when referring to co-workers in everyday situations, avoid the phrase.

3. Drop "fillers" from your talk. For example, eliminate any habitual use of just and er and like, as these indicate hesitancy and poor expressive ability. Likewise, using the phrases "I think" and "I guess" send a subliminal message that you lack confidence.

4. Eliminate "qualifiers."
We often add small words that modify the meaning of the nouns that follow, but this is a bad habit because these words minimize the impact of those nouns. For example, do not use the word try. The statement, "I try my hardest to satisfy client expectations" is simply not as effective as, "I have a proven track record in client satisfaction."

Excerpted from 201 KNOCKOUT ANSWERS TO TOUGH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-Based Interview Style, by Linda Matias. Copyright © 2009 Linda Matias. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.

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